The Phoenix Suns‘ victory over the Los Angeles Lakers was the first time in ten years that the Suns would move onto the second round of the NBA Playoffs. The first round of the Suns’ playoff run will forever be remembered in the history books for a number of reasons, it marked the first time LeBron James lost in the first round and it was the first series Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton appeared in.
Heading into the series, it seemed that the Lakers would upset the Suns and end any hope of a deep Suns playoff run. Instead, the young Suns gear up for a best-of-7 series against the Denver Nuggets. Before we look at the keys for the Suns’ second-round matchup, let’s break down the Lakers and Suns Playoff series.
Takeaways From The Lakers-Suns Playoff Series
Devin Booker is a Super Star
The hope of a deep Suns playoff run starts and ends with Devin Booker. Booker has been the number one option for The Valley since he was drafted by the team in the 2015 NBA Draft. Before the series, many people questioned Booker’s ability to perform in the post-season due to his lack of experience and nerves. He answered that question by averaging 29.7 points (on 48.8% shooting), 6.2 rebounds, all while dishing out five assists. Not only did Booker finish the series with an outstanding stat line, but he was easily the best player on the floor for the entire series. That says a lot considering he shared the floor with future Hall of Famers in LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Anthony Davis.
Booker was great all series, but it’s hard not to look at Game 6 as his “coming out party.” Booker looked poised to send the Lakers home as soon as the ball was tipped off. He ended the first quarter with 22 points and was ready to book the Lakers ticket home. He finished with 47 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists. The only way Booker was heading back to the desert was to face the Nuggets and made his intentions very clear.
Chris Paul Injury
In Game 1, Chris Paul suffered a right shoulder contusion. Although Chris Paul didn’t miss a single game, the shoulder injury was noticeable. The injury affected Paul’s ability to shoot and dribble the basketball. Paul was in obvious pain but assured Suns’ Head Coach Monty Williams that he could and will play every game. With that being said, Paul was forced to sit out stints of games but appeared to be close to normal toward the end of the series.
If Paul wants to make a deep Suns playoff run, then he has to be as close to 100% as he can get. Paul is the backbone of this young team and they thrive off of his veteran leadership. Paul being “healthy” isn’t an amenity the Suns can survive without- it is a necessity.
Cameron Payne‘s Elevation in Play
With Chris Paul suffering from injuries, the Suns needed someone to step up and make an immediate impact- Payne did just that. Throughout the regular season, Payne was the backup point guard and was only called upon to give Chris Paul and Devin Booker a breather. But with Chris Paul’s injury, Payne was given an increase in minutes and has made the most of those minutes. Payne has provided the Suns with a burst of energy whenever he is subbed into the game and will be vital in a deep Suns playoff run.
Looking Ahead to Nuggets Suns Playoff Series
After dethroning the defending champs, the Suns find themselves taking on the 2020 Western Conference runners-up, the Denver Nuggets. The Suns and Nuggets have faced each other nine times in the post-season, the last time being the 1989 playoffs, and the Suns are six-and-three against them in the post-season. Game 1 is slated to be on Monday, June 7, tip-off is at 7:00 PM MT.